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Carolyn Hax: Commit for sake of his son

Hi, Carolyn: I am a 32-year-old woman who has been dating a wonderful man for a little over a year. We are now making lifelong plans together, starting with the process of looking for a new home to move into together.

My boyfriend has joint custody of his 5-year-old son, who until now, has lived solely with his mom. We are looking at homes with the idea that his son would start living with us half of the time. He’s a sweetheart and I welcome the idea of having him living with us, getting to know him better, and helping my boyfriend raise him.

What are the sort of things I should be prepared for, and my boyfriend and I should discuss, before we move in together with his son? I want to make sure we’re preparing as best we can for this major life change all three of us will be making! – Stepmom-to-Be

You can make sure you’re permanent. Before the house, before the half-time custody, before the book on stepfamily dynamics, there is your relationship with the father of this little boy. Calling him your “boyfriend” says you’re either still just dating, or are in the gray area between “dating” and “lifelong,” and that says forming this stepfamily is premature. Period.

That doesn’t mean your life with man and child is anything but promising. In fact, everything that needs to be there seems to be: A man is changing his life to make room for his child (belatedly, but, OK); the joint custody and regular visitation suggest he and the mom are cooperating; you’re getting to know the boy gradually, and you like and care about both father and son; you are eager to provide a home and willing to work to get it right.

But setting up this “and-son-makes-three” household before you and your boyfriend have made a life commitment is just fundamentally not in the best interests of the child. Don’t gather under one roof and then commit. Commitment, then roof. Please.



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